You're worth it: 12 holiday gifts to yourself

Consumer Reports News: December 08, 2009 11:31 AM

Sure, it's the season of giving, but what about that most special of gift recipients—you? Here are 12 health-enhancing gifts you can feel good about buying yourself this holiday season or anytime. All are based on our independent testing and research, so you know they're worth buying. Feel guilty about treating yourself? Don't: Two-thirds of Americans we surveyed in November who planned to shop Black Friday weekend said they intended to get something for themselves.

For your bod

A membership to the Y. When we surveyed more than 10,000 subscribers about their experiences with health clubs, we found that YMCAs, Jewish Community Centers, and local community centers got higher marks from their members than most commercial gym chains, including Gold's Gym and Bally's. Our survey also uncovered another "Y" that you might want to consider: an independent yoga studio. Though pricier than some of the alternatives, those facilities—along with studios for dance and Pilates—got the highest satisfaction scores among people who used them.

A treadmill. This one's a good idea if you're actually going to use it, and not as a spare clothing rack. Best Buy treadmills include the PaceMaster Platinum Pro VR ($2,000), a non-folding model, and the Epic View 550 ($1,600) and  Sole F63 ($1,000), which both fold up for easy storage. Avoid the Nordic Track T9ci, which failed our endurance test.

A pair of Asics. Or consider one of the other top-performing athletic shoes from our latest tests. Athletic shoes are a good investment because you can wear them for a range of activities, from aerobics and weight training to light running and court games. We tested 10 men's and 10 women's models and found the best for both genders were from Asics—specifically, the Asics GEL-150TR (men) and the Asics GEL-150TR (women), both $65. We found other strong choices for as little as $45.

Some inexpensive home fitness equipment. Invest in a stability ball, which starts at $20 and does a great job working your core. Bonus: You can use it as a funky desk chair. Add a set of light dumbbells ($6 and up) or resistance bands ($10 to $15), an exercise mat ($13 to $20), and some fun exercise DVDs (about $15 each) and voila—a whole home gym for less than $100, the price of just one of those gimmicky ab machines.  

For your belly

Guilt-free munchies. Pringles Original 100 Calorie Pack Potato Crisps, Ritz Reduced Fat crackers, Cracker Barrel Natural Reduced Fat Vermont Sharp White Cheddar, and—for sweets lovers—Smart Food Popcorn Clusters were among the best in our recent tests of lower-fat snack foods. Our sensory experts tried dozens of healthier versions of traditionally high-fat offerings like chips, cheese, and snack mix to see which were tasty enough to try. Fun job, huh? 

A bottle of wine. Red or white, take your pick: Research suggests that both help protect the heart and possibly ward off other diseases, provided you keep consumption moderate. That's a glass a day for women, two for men; more and you risk undoing the benefit, not to mention increasing the risk of a host of other illnesses (and inviting a nasty hangover). Need help buying? Check out Consumer Reports' wine-buying guide, packed with tasty choices to fit any budget.

For looking your best (guys too!)

For ladies: Smokin' lashes. A new tube of mascara is an inexpensive way to update your look without the risks or expense of certain other eyelash enhancers that have invaded the market this year. The winning wand from our last tests was Lancôme Définicils, $24, available at department stores. But we found other mascaras sold at drugstores that were very good and cost $9 or less. Learn seven mascara safety tips—including when to throw out that old tube.

For men: A clean, close shave. The Braun 360 Complete foil shaver, $170, earned excellent scores across the board in our last tests; for a more economical option, the Remington MicroScreen 500 foil shaved nearly as well and went for $60. Guys who prefer rotary shavers can try the Philips Norelco Speed XL 8160XLCC ($130). Don't worry if you find you don't like the model you bought: All 17 shavers we tested offer a money-back trial of 30 days or longer.

New hair tools. We lab-tested 10 hair dryers (also called blow dryers) and found that you can spend up to $200 for the quietest model—or spend $20 for our Best Buy and use all that extra money to buy some ear plugs. For consumers itching to tame curls, we also tested nine straightening irons. The best performer was the Infiniti Nano Silver by Conair SS9 for $100—but if that's more than you want to spend, the Revlon Perfect Heat Ceramic RVST2001C ($30) offers an excellent value, plus it's light and travels well.

A brighter smile. If professional teeth bleaching isn't in your budget this year, at-home tooth whiteners can lighten your pearly whites for $50 or under. See our Ratings of eight top-selling models to see which are worth buying and which to skip. 

A mini eye makeover. In our tests of anti-wrinkle eye creams, Olay Total Effects, sold at drugstores, beat out pricier models sold at department stores and Sephora—including one from the heavily advertised Dr. Perricone brand that cost nearly $100. That's the second time in a row Olay has trumped its fancier counterparts in our tests.

New shades. Sunglasses give you instant style, but more important, they screen out vision-damaging ultraviolet radiation. The most protective shades are large-framed, close-fitting, and wraparound. Use our buying advice to find the best pair for you. Then close your eyes and pretend you're on vacation.

A treat for your feet. Thank your lower extremities for carrying you around all year (and all shopping season) with a PedEgg. We found the $10, ovular-shaped foot file easy to use and more effective than a pumice stone at removing calluses and dry skin. And it comes with buffing pads to smooth leftover roughness.

Jamie Kopf Hirsh, associate editor

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Health News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more